BATMAN AND ROBIN #21 Author: Bobby Barrett
June 20, 2013
SYNOPSIS: What deal would you make to bring someone back from the dead? And in this issue, it’s Batman vs. Batgirl!
If you're looking for some pulse-pounding action with a heartfelt backdrop…you might want to weigh out your options. BATMAN AND ROBIN co-stars Batgirl this month--and while the book does deliver some powerful moments, it really winds up being the latest installment in “Bruce's Rage Fest, 2013.”
The issue reads more like an installment of BATGIRL, and makes use of recent emotionally heavy events in that book to bring us into Barbara Gordon's state of mind as she enters the picture here. It would definitely benefit one to have been keeping up with her recent solo adventures, but writer Peter Tomasi catches the reader up fairly well…enough to follow the story, anyway. Tremendous guilt and shame she's been feeling about recent events in her and the Bat-Family's lives has compelled Batgirl to break her silence and reach out to Batman for the first time since the events of "Death of the Family." She knows, having recently lost his son, Bruce has to be feeling something similar to what she's been dealing with, and thinks maybe the two of them can talk things out and gain some perspective.
Her hunt for The Dark Knight leads to the discovery that Bruce's state of mind is worse than expected: His actions are reckless and fueled by rage, and he's not a force that has been any kinder to his allies than his enemies. Longtime Bat-readers will likely recall seeing Bruce depicted like this in "A Lonely Place of Dying," after Jason Todd's untimely demise, making this story feel like familiar territory.
Ultimately, confrontation is had, and it's not pretty. Hard to imagine anyone walking away happy after reading this issue, there's just so much bitterness involved. Ultimately, that is my beef with this title at the moment: 1990's Batman is back in full effect, the Family blowouts are frequent, and the overall arc is three issues in and not yet feeling like it's going anywhere. I actually missed Carrie Kelley in this issue, as she has represented the one ray of hope in this book since Damian's death.
BATMAN AND ROBIN #21 Cover
There is success here, however, and that is in the art. Regular series artist Pat Gleason has taken an (unannounced) issue off, and Cliff Richards has stepped up to the plate on pencil duty. This has turned out to be a pleasant surprise – though this book has been characterized by Gleason's signature style, Richards' work is confident and enjoyable enough to make you forget you're looking at a guest artist's work. Vibrant and alive, the character designs are striking. It's particularly clear he had fun with Batman and Batgirl's armor--there are some new, unique details to their New 52 suits (particularly the gauntlets) that are simply delightful to look at. Mark Irwin and Marlo Alquiza provide stellar inks, with John Kalisz's colors providing just the right touch to make the scenes pop and make the action lifelike. If this team were to work together on a Bat-title again, I would heartily approve.
At the end of the day, I simply have a hard time recommending this issue. Maybe the end of issue #23 will be really powerful, giving the entire arc new perspective – but for now, it's just not fun. There was a particularly moving scene from BATMAN #20 that had Bruce opening up to Alfred, the two discussing Damian and how Bruce doesn't want to get back to the state he found himself in when he lost Jason. BATMAN AND ROBIN flat-out contradicts that scene thus far – but I'm crossing my fingers that this story arc, when put together, leads Bruce to that point and that BATMAN's timeline was just further along. We'll see what Catwoman brings to the table next month. - Bobby Barrett
Bobby Barrett is a lifelong Batman enthusiast living in Fresno, California, with his wife and several cats.
He enjoys reading, writing, acting, and playing very loud rock music.